People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out. ~Warren Bennis
One of my favourite movies is the 2001 epic war film, Pearl Harbor, starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and with Alec Baldwin as Col. Jimmy Doolittle. There is a particular scene in the movie that stands out for me as containing an important message not only for each of us an individuals, but also for business organizations.
In trying to decide how to counter the devastating sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle and his team come up with a daring plan to bomb Tokyo and other key Japanese cities, thus showing the Japanese war machine that the US was still strong, capable and determined. The problem was how to get bombers to Japan from a safe location, especially given a limited fuel supply and range. The solution? Launch them from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific 500 miles off the coast of Japan.
Brilliant idea, but seemingly impossible, since the flight deck of an aircraft carrier at that time was shorter than the normal B-25 take-off length required.
The solution, reinvent the B-25 Bomber! To do this, they stripped out all unnecessary extra equipment and weight, loaded only 4 – 500 pound bombs, added extra fuel tanks for the long journey and a crew of 5. Then they practiced short-field take-off techniques in Florida before loading 16 planes onto the USS Hornet in San Francisco harbor for the highly secret voyage across the Pacific.
The result was a significant morale boost for the US military and an action which forced the Japanese to change their war strategy and beef-up their homeland defense, at the expense of continuing to press their previously successful Pacific conquests. The rest is history, as they say!
Insights and Applications:
There are many highly experienced business executives and managers who are approaching the age where retirement is traditional, and getting hired again is extremely difficult. In essence, they are running out of runway! They don’t have 20 years to devote to a company, but on the other hand have well over 30+ years of experience and knowledge learned by doing, not by reading books. Yet most companies are looking for younger talent with new ideas and a “longer runway”.
When the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight! ~Jack Welch
The same is true of many businesses today. The world is getting smaller and the pace of change faster and faster. And competition is coming from all directions, even from outside your traditional industry. How to keep up? How to stay ahead?
The solution? Reinvent yourself! Think like Colonel Doolittle. Take your core strengths, strip away the no longer required, and morph into a valuable, lean mean machine that is all about adding value. Lose some weight and get your energy and creativity back.
How big is your company headquarters? Radically reduce it, push accountability out. How big is your monthly living budget? Cut it back. Live simply. Read outside your field. Use your knowledge from one industry or profession to come up with ideas to help solve challenges in another company or industry. Believe in your people. Believe in yourself. What you have learned along life’s journey has value. Figure out how to use it.
One of my earliest and most influential tutors about life and success used to say:
“The next time you see me, you won’t be able to say ‘Here comes the same old Tom Willhite’! I will always be changing, evolving, learning and doing new things.”
Yet I see too many capable executives and managers who keep doing the same thing over and over, and loving it less and less. I see too many corporations just marginally improving their products rather than reinventing them for new markets and a new consumer.
So, what are you waiting for?
Thanks for joining the conversation.
John R Childress
Senior Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
View my website: www.johnrchildress.com
PS: John also writes thriller novels: http://novels.johnrchildress.com